“Good Words for Hard Times,” Jan. 12, 2021

What do you do when the unthinkable happens? Where do you go to find peace? And how do you explain it to a child?

On January 6th— when throngs of President Trump’s supporters cheered for him at a rally near the White House, and then violently attacked the U.S. Capitol building—my mind raced with questions.

My husband and I spent most of that day watching the news on TV. It reminded me of other horrific events I’d seen on TV in my lifetime—the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, and the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

I didn’t realize how emotional I was feeling until my phone lit up with a FaceTime call from my 10-year-old grandson. Before answering, I took a moment to dry my eyes.

“Hey, Nana!” Randy said, “I have a surprise to show you!”

“Really?” I said. “What is it?”

He grinned ear-to-ear and I could clearly see the surprise.

“Woohoo!” I said. “No braces!”

“Yep!” he said, laughing. “I got them off today!”

I wish you could’ve seen him.

Suddenly, it all seemed too much—the joy in Randy’s eyes, and the terror I had just been watching in the news.

“Are you OK, Nana?” Randy asked, studying my face on his computer screen.

“I’m fine, sweetheart, I just….”

Stopping mid-sentence, I tried to think of what to say. How could I tell that sweet child something so wrong? He would learn it soon enough. I didn’t want him to learn it from me. So I did what grandparents often do. I left it to his parents.

“I’m fine,” I said, “really. I’m just happy you got all of that metal out of your mouth!”

“Me, too!” Randy said.

We talked a bit longer, then he said goodbye to go show off his teeth on more FaceTime calls.

And I went back to watching the news with my husband. We stayed glued to the screen all evening until finally, Congress officially affirmed Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

In the closing prayer, Senate Chaplain Barry Black condemned the acts of violence and the “desecration” of the Capitol building.

“These tragedies,” he said, “have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue.”

He asked God to “Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world.”

Finally, he prayed, “Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name, amen.”

I said amen, too. I can almost hear some of you saying it now.

Late that night, as I lay in bed thinking, I remembered a hymn I learned as a child. It’s called “It Is Well with My Soul.” The first verse goes like this:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I often sang that hymn when I was growing up. It has helped me through a lot of hard times. Years ago, I read the story behind it. The hymn was written in 1873, by Horatio Spafford, shortly after he lost four young daughters in a shipwreck at sea.

I can’t imagine the agony of losing a child, let alone, four children. But in Spafford’s grief, he found words that have helped countless souls find peace.

I won’t tell Randy what I saw on TV the day he called about his braces. His parents will do that when he’s ready to hear it.

But I might give him the music for “It Is Well with My Soul” and tell him a bit about why I like it. He might want to learn to play it on his guitar. Who knows? Maybe we will sing it together.


  1. Doe Doe Deaver says

    This touched my heart Sharon as you ended your story with what counts most at the end of the day! Especially knowing the story behind this Amazing song that most of us sang growing up! Yes It is Well, It is Well with my Soul! We can’t Control what is out of our control but we will have to Trust God and take this new Journey one day at a time!
    Thank you for these heartfelt words!
    Hope you get to come back to Redding California again!

  2. Sharon Francis says

    I am a church organist. This hymn is one of my favorites also. Its backstory is so heart wrenching and powerful. So many hymns have beautiful stories of how they were written. Knowing their stories make them even more meaningful. Thank you for sharing this story with your readers.

  3. Debbie Fortune says

    Loved that song of old. One man is being hated and blamed because he loves America. Our ‘Republic’ needs to be restored the way it was intended by godly founding fathers. Too many running the country have no regard for America and its people…America has become an end to their means. No one should ever allow themselves to become bitter about speaking on behalf of the people they represent. Like presidents, individual congress members need limited years to serve, so at some point they can go back to their real lives and careers, to love God, life and family once again.

  4. CHope Hall says

    We too sat and watched this all day into the next day. I cried and cried all day and night. I was on emotional overload and to somewhat extent I still am today. Please God cure our country sooner rather than later. The family song is It Is Well. Hubby plays it on his guitar. I sing along off key and all. Thank you so very much for this writing. I am thankful others feel like I do.

  5. The mob rule, the fact that they really were looking for Rep Pelosi and others, the dragging and clubbing oh police outnumbered and trying to protect the building and the people inside were things that should never happen. The fact that they were invited to go fight by the president and his attorney shows us how very close to a coup and fascism we are. The shirts worn that said Aushwitch University. Work kid freedom, & the initials for 6 million were not enough- referring to hitler wanting to kill every Jew in Europe- these people need to be punished, along with their leaders, & the leaders who did not prepare for a mob riot, even though it had been planned online for weeks. I have a 9 1/2 year old grandson, going to school online, His teacher had them read about what happened in an age appropriate magazine online. They talked about lies, learning to find out the truth, using good media sources, etc. Then they all were supposed to talk to their parents, show them the article & video. It went well. I hope your grand son learned about this from his folks and his teacher. Hopefully they encouraged him to talk, and reassured him about his own safety.

  6. I am sad for whatever is happening in India and in US which is not good for democracy. Wish we could help. Amen!!

  7. Kathy Smith says

    That is one of my favorite hymns. Stay away from the news, they are not what they were when we were growing up. They don’t want to report news just sensationalism. I wish we still had Walter Cronchite and then the National Anthem and the test pattern. I pray everyday for healing and peace in this country to pass on to my grandchildren

  8. Kate Sciacca says

    There is so much unknown about that day. What I do know is that 99.9% of the folks in DC that day were there to peacefully and prayerfully protest. I saw so many people praying rosaries and other prayers, many families with strollers and seniors and citizens from all walks of life, including some who came here for freedom, having fled communism. One friend who was there said he had no idea the violence was occurring…. he was still watching the President speak when the Capitol was breached. It’s all very strange…. What I do know is that the Light will still shine in the darkness, He always does. And He wins in the end 🙂🙏🏻

  9. Yes, focus on God and turn off the TV…ESPECIALLY the NEWS! God bless and protect our grandkids and all of us. Today, I started my day by listening to and singing along with a hymn I love…”Surely it is God who saves me”. Keep the Faith!

  10. Thank you for focusing on Randy when he needed you to! I struggle with how to talk about last week’s events with my college students next week, but trust that we will find a way forward. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for parents of young children to know how to talk with them about what’s been happening.

    I, too, love the song “It Is Well With My Soul.” Such powerful words and calming thoughts for us to remember!

    I finished reading your novel last night. What a wonderfully written book! Please write more books!

  11. Carol Boltz says

    Thank you, Sharon. My little neck of the woods is far, yet so very close because I see the comments on social media. I’m searching for the wellness like the song says.

  12. Shirley Thacker says

    One of my favorite songs for sure. I think we are all in knots! I hope all are prayerful. The hate for one man over love of country is sad. Truth must always win. I had such hope for 2021. I hope and pray America can be strong again. Thank you for sharing your writing.

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